It’s fair to say that Crash Bandicoot is one of the most beloved characters and series of all time. These days, he is back on the gaming map, thanks to some brilliant remasters courtesy of Vicarious Visions and Beenox in the form of Crash Bandicoot N.Sane Trilogy and Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled. And for the first time in a long time, there is genuine excitement among fans for the future of this franchise. But if we turn back the clock back 15 years to 2004, we find a rather different situation. We find a series in slow decline.
Crash Twinsanity released in September 2004, but the story of this game really starts three years earlier, with The Wrath of Cortex. Going into that game, the expectations were high. After all, this was going to be Crash’s first adventure on a new generation of console. And the series had been thoroughly brilliant up until that point. Naughty Dog hadn’t put a foot wrong with their four games.
It’s no surprise that the game sold as well as it did but The Wrath of Cortex also had a much more muted critical reception than any previous Crash game. As it turned out, the level-based format of the first three hadn’t translated well, probably because it wasn’t Naughty Dog making the levels. Critics were quick to point out that the game lacked any kind of innovation and that it played safe by trying to emulate Naughty Dog’s style. Upon playing it, many people reached the same conclusion; Wrath of Cortex felt like a knock-off version of Warped.
It was this reception that spawned Twinsanity. It was a project that would move in a radical new direction. For the first time, Crash Bandicoot would be an open-world platformer. Many of the staples of classic Crash were scrapped. That meant no bonus rounds, death routes or gem paths, no Aku-Aku protection and no big final showdown with Cortex. Crates served no purpose and fall damage was introduced.
And instead of battling Cortex, this time Crash would be teaming up with him. And it is the story which revolves around this concept; the two must work together to stop ‘The Evil Twins’, who are a pair of mutated parrots from another dimension. Most of the game is spent collecting power crystals in order to travel to the Tenth Dimension to face them.
When Twinsanity released, the critical reception was just as mixed as The Wrath of Cortex. Many critics praised the new direction the game took, but overall it left a lot to be desired. Put simply, Twinsanity was nowhere near ready for release. It was full of bugs, some sounds and animations were missing, the cut-scenes were unskippable and you couldn’t pick individual levels to play. It was also far too short and clearly unfinished, with strange pacing to boot. Some sections lacked any kind of boss, whilst others had two fights back-to-back.
Most of these problems can be pinned on the fact that the development team were far too ambitious for their own good. They couldn’t hope to carry out their original vision for Twinsanity, even with the three year development cycle afforded to the game. The result was a game that was not only rushed, unfinished and buggy, but one that had a massive amount of cut content. New levels, new bosses and new characters all had to be left out because of time constraints, and for the past 15 years, new information has been continuously released about this game and what was meant to be included.
But even with these issues, Twinsanity had a lot going for it. The concept of teaming up with Cortex, as well as the open world gameplay were innovative ideas and ones that were carried out rather well. They marked an interesting departure from that familiar formula of collecting crystals in distinct levels. The game’s acapella soundtrack was another high point and really highlighted the silly nature. Even if you hated it, you had to admit it was damn catchy.
Twinsanity had a certain degree of charm to it too. Playing through you can really tell that the developers cared about the series. There are a ton of call-backs to previous games, and characters you haven’t seen in years pop up along the way.
But the best part of this game is its humour. Twinsanity is a funny game, plain and simple. It’s distinctly wackier than any of its predecessors, awash with hilarious dialogue and moments like Cortex getting stuck in a pipe. Or Cortex being kicked in his ‘crystals’ by Coco. Or Cortex mentioning that ‘Wrath of Cortex didn’t do as well as we hoped.’ In fact, Cortex is really the main character of Twinsanity and Lex Lang’s performance of him is downright brilliant.
Twinsanity’s legacy is a conflicted one. The game maintains a cult following and has relatively high standing among many Crash fans. Some rate it as the best game outside of the Naughty Dog originals. Some even want it remastered, an intriguing possibility considering all that cut content. But many hate it, complaining that the game took away all that which made the originals so great and dismissing it as an unfinished mess. No matter where you stand, everyone can agree that it was at least something different. Perhaps for that reason alone, Crash Twinsanity is still worth a playthrough, 15 years after it first released.